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Sad news: Body found near railroad tracks was that of former UND hockey player Chad Johnson

by Mike McFeely

Terrible news. Police say the body found near the railroad tracks near downtown Fargo yesterday is that of former University of North Dakota hockey player Chad Johnson. He resigned as head coach of the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League in September and was a former assisant with the USHL's Fargo Force.

Johnson was 43.

 Chad Johnson
Johnson played high school hockey at Grand Forks Central and played for UND from 1990-93. He scored six goals and had 22 points. Johnson is the brother of former UND player Steve Johnson, the uncle of current UND freshmen Luke Johnson and Paul LaDue and a former teammate of Dave Hakstol and Dane Jackson.

Johnson was the head coach of the Bismarck Bobcats in junior hockey and then was an assistant with the Force.

Most recently he was head coach of Lincoln for three seasons before resigning in September, citing health issues.

A press release from the team dated Sept. 18 said:

“Chad has indicated to us that he’d like to return to Fargo so that he can be closer to his family, and address some health issues before they become more serious,” said Stars’ President Jim Pflug.  “Chad came in under difficult circumstances, and along with Jimmy McGroarty, helped restore the winning attitude that our organization is known for.  He’s a great coach and friend, and we appreciate the sacrifices he’s made on our behalf.  We’re sorry to see him leave the Stars organization, but support his decision 100%.”

KFGO News reported yesterday Fargo police said a 43-year-old man was spotted by a passing train crew along the tracks behind Nelson International in the 4100 block of Main Ave. about 5:30 p.m. Monday.

It appeared the man was hit by an earlier train. Police said they did not suspect foul play in the death.

Police withheld identifying the man until family could be notified.

The Forum reported the man's vehicle was nearby.

I didn't know Chad well, but did cross paths with him occasionally back when I was covering sports for The Forum. We also have some mutual friends in Fargo-Moorhead. Chad was always incredibly friendly and kind to me and my family when we would see him around town. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy. I've talked to a couple of his friends this morning and both said Chad never had a bad word to say about anybody.

They also both said Chad had been going through some difficult times recently.

I just saw Chad a week ago when I was bowling in north Fargo. He was with his young son. We had a nice chat, as we always did when he saw each other. 

The toughest thing is Chad left behind a 4-year-old son, a girlfriend and his family.

(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at mike.mcfeely@mwcradio.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)